It has been clear to us for a while. Although the rest of the world has been slow to catch on, the adventurous among us have always seen the need to protect our wilderness. To the average person, it can be difficult to see why. However, we adventurers spend days and nights out there, and we see what’s happening to the wild places of our world first hand. And we want to protect them.
After all, none of us wants to see a world without wilderness. A day when cities stretch across the mountains and through the forests, when trash litters every trail and water is home to nothing that lives, forests without birdsong and mountains without snow, rivers without fish – who wants that?
Climate change isn’t the only threat to the wilderness we all love. Us, the people who use that wilderness are in many ways the greatest threat to it. If we don’t actively fight to protect it and habitually care for it, it will wither. Here are four great ways to take care of your local wilderness.
Join local conservation groups
It has never been easier to get involved in projects concerned with protecting our environment than it is now. You can log on to the internet today and join any number of local, state, and national conservation groups. It’s incredible and inspiring how many people are involved in political and practical action right now to preserve and restore our wilderness.
There are conservation groups dedicated to mountains, trail networks, rivers, oceans, species, air quality, and just about anything else you could imagine. Some are privately operated, others are government funded. One thing they all have in common is a drive to make the world a better place tomorrow than it was today.
Joining a conservation group can mean all sorts of things. You might help with trail restoration in your local wilderness, or do river cleanup once a month. Some organizations plant trees and others spread awareness on the streets. There are a thousand ways to take action and even more reasons to do so. Being involved in a group of like-minded adventure lovers is a great way to get motivated to make a difference.
Practice leaving no trace
Sometimes the biggest ways to make an impact are by doing little things. Leave no trace is such a simple ethical practice that we sometimes forget about it. This goes beyond simply picking up your trash when you’re in the woods. It also means staying on trails, leaving rocks, plants, and animals where you found them, and keeping your food scraps off the forest floor.
People often think that their impact is too small to worry about. What is a couple of crumbs or one person spitting toothpaste going to do to the wilderness? But the fact of the matter is that most far out places aren’t so far out anymore. Many trails see hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of visitors per year. Those little differences can really add up.
If just one out of every hundred hikers go off trail in a particular spot, that can be thousands of people trampling through the woods every year. That not only creates more trails than are needed, but can also cause erosion.
Speak up and spread awareness
One of the best ways to make a difference is with your voice. Land Stewardship is not really something that sounds too cool to most people. But it should! Any wise adventurer would want their wilderness to stay pristine for generations to come. So speak up!
If you see someone disrespecting outdoor spaces, say something. A lot of times people don’t even realize the impact they’re making. If you point out the potential harm they’re causing, they’ll probably rethink their actions.
Or hey, maybe they really don’t care. At least by telling them you do, you’ll help them realize that some people do care. Usually, people who don’t care simply never learned to live any other way. It’s up to all of us to model good stewardship to our peers and the younger generations who look up to us. Teach people good habits, talk about the problems our wilderness is facing, and take action whenever you can.
Take political action
It may sound dull or perhaps even downright impossible, but political action is easier now than ever before. Little things like signing petitions online are an excellent way to make a difference. You can also write to your local and state representatives about issues close to home or national in scope. Recently, my hometown’s local mountain bike trails were threatened by a sale of the land to a logging company. The entire forest was at risk along with a world class trail network that has been developed over decades of community involvement.
Fortunately, where I come from, wilderness stewardship is nothing new. The whole community of mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, and outdoors lovers banded together to take political action. We wrote and signed petitions and we emailed senators and local representatives. We took action, and we made a difference. Last week the deal was changed. The entire area will be preserved. Logging will be conducted in another zone and in a limited manner. For the local community, it was a huge win, and was only possible because people took action in big and small ways.
So whether you’re gearing up to run for office, or just to type an email to your state rep, every bit of political action by the people adds up to create lasting change.
It’s up to you
So, in the months and years ahead, don’t take the wilderness for granted. Remember that we are the ones responsible for so much destruction of the natural world, and it is up to us to preserve it. If we want to enjoy the beauty of nature and to share it with our kids, we need to act.
Whether it’s by doing something big, or something small, you can make a difference wherever you go. Pick up trash, spread awareness, volunteer your time, and get involved in the politics of preservation. If we all do our part, we can keep the wilderness wild for generations to come.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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